American Scheffler, who came into the event as the new world No 1 on the back of three wins in quick succession, holds a three-shot lead on 10-under in the season’s opening major
But he’s being chased at Augusta National by Aussie Smith, who has won twice this year and, perhaps more significantly, loves it round here.
He’s made the cut in all five of his previous appearances, including two top 10s and a runner-up finish in 2020.
That year, the Queenslander secured a place in the event’s history by becoming the first player to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds.
In the penultimate circuit on this occasion, he was the only player to sign for a score in the 60s on a day when the scoring average was the fourth test since the 1980s.
World No 2 Jon Rahm worked to a 77 while Tiger Woods signed for a 78 – his worst score in more than 90 rounds in this tournament.
Scheffler, who held a five-shot lead at the halfway stage, was still four shots in front playing the last before having to take a penalty drop after his drive caught a tree on the left of the fairway.
But the 25-year-old is still in the driving seat as he bids to join Ian Woosnam (1991), Fred Couples (1992), Tiger Woods (2001 and 2002) and Dustin Johnson (2020) to claim a Green Jacket as the game’s top-ranked player.
Scheffler, who recorded top-20 finishes in his previous two starts here, led by six at one point after getting to 11-under before opening the door slightly with his closing bogey.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” said Scheffler, who has Teddy Scott, who helped Bubba Watson win twice in this event, on his bag. “I had a lot of fun out there. When I am in the lead, I am trying to stay in the lead and not overthink things – just go out there and play golf.”
On what happened at the closing hole, he added: “You hate bogeying the last hole, but the way I bogeyed it felt like a couple so definitely a good finish to the day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Smith, who started the day six shots off the lead, birdied the second, sixth, eighth, 10th, 13th and 15th as the 28-year-old stormed into contention here once again.
“It was really tough out there today,” he said. “I think I did a good job of just staying within myself, staying patient with the course.”
Asked what he felt it would take to come out on top on this occasion, Smith added: “Shoot the lowest score out there again tomorrow.”
With 26 of the last 31 winners in this event having been in the final group on Sunday, the record books point to either Scheffler or Smith coming out on top.
Danny Willett in 2016 was the last player to triumph from outside the final pairing and Korea Sungjae Im is leading the group aiming to achieve that feat on this occasion.
The 2020 runner-up is five behind Scheffler in third place after a 71, with 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel and 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry two shots further back in joint-fourth after matching 73s.
Schwartzel holed his second shot for an eagle at the tenth to move to six-under before dropping four shots over the last eight holes.
Johnson sits just inside the top 10 on one-over alongside career grand slam-chasing Rory McIlroy, Open champion Collin Morikawa and Tommy Fleetwood.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama slipped 11 shots off the pace after a 77, with Woods finding himself 16 back following his worst effort on this course.
Bob MacIntyre heads into the final round sitting in a tie for 36th on six-over – one ahead of Woods – after he failed to make a birdie in a 76, which was also his worst effort here, albeit in just seven circuits.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.